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When to Use What Research Design

W. Paul Vogt, Dianne C. Gardner, and Lynne M. Haeffele

Paperbacke-bookprint + e-book
February 21, 2012
ISBN 9781462503537
Price: $50.00
378 Pages
Size: 7" x 10"
April 4, 2012
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $50.00
378 Pages
print + e-book
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378 Pages
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Systematic, practical, and accessible, this is the first book to focus on finding the most defensible design for a particular research question. Thoughtful guidelines are provided for weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various methods, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods designs. The book can be read sequentially or readers can dip into chapters on specific stages of research (basic design choices, selecting and sampling participants, addressing ethical issues) or data collection methods (surveys, interviews, experiments, observations, archival studies, and combined methods). Many chapter headings and subheadings are written as questions, helping readers quickly find the answers they need to make informed choices that will affect the later analysis and interpretation of their data.
Useful features include: See also Vogt et al.'s Selecting the Right Analyses for Your Data, which addresses the next steps in coding, analyzing, and interpreting data.

“Provides a hugely useful resource to navigate through the initial stages of research design, applicable to students and seasoned researchers alike....The layout of the book allows the reader to easily select those chapters that are most relevant to their interests, and is facilitated by signposting of additional resources to support the reader. The book is well written and accessible, posing questions throughout to guide the reader through the research process. A useful resource for any researcher.”

The Psychologist

“It is difficult to avoid a plethora of superlatives in reviewing this text. The writers….devote their space comprehensively and adequately to assisting any research reader at any level to decide what research method to use in dealing with a particular question, and to provide answers to many associated questions….Should be prescribed reading for everyone proposing to undertake educational research….Expect it to be a constant source of advice and inspiration.”

British Journal of Educational Technology

“The book is organized in an easy access order of information from design to sampling to ethics. Having used the book while starting my own study, the book did help me to quickly locate the information I needed. I praise the book’s emphasis on the design development process from the research question to the research design….The authors included wonderful research question examples for reach research design. The attention to detail was refreshing. I particularly liked the authors’ lists of important works in each chapter for in-depth discussions on a research design, a sampling technique, etc.”

Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal

“I praise the book's emphasis on the design development process from the research question to the research design, highlighting the fact that the research question always decides what steps will follow and what decisions will need to be made. The authors included wonderful research question examples for each research design. The attention to detail was refreshing. I particularly liked the authors' lists of important works in each chapter for in-depth discussions on a research design, a sampling technique, etc….[T]his book does what the authors have stated it should do, which is to describe various design packages and define the research designs involved in them….[T]he authors do a wonderful job at directing researchers towards appropriate literature for reading further details.”

International Journal of Social Research Methodology

“A masterful and thorough presentation of 'when to use what.' From beginning to end, it is clear that you are reading the work of very accomplished researchers and educators. The authors use a particularly rich, colorful, and practical set of examples, including classic and contemporary research studies as well as wonderful day-to-day illustrations such as TV channel surfing to introduce the notion of sampling. Readers can pick and choose individual chapters or read straight through the entire book, depending on their needs. The summary tables are extraordinarily useful and can serve as a quick reference to chapter structure and content.”

—Karen M. Staller, PhD, School of Social Work, University of Michigan

“I am recommending this book as the core text for our required methods course at the graduate level. The reader is taken on a tour of the main research designs employed by social scientists, including various quantitative and qualitative, experimental and observational, and primary and secondary data designs. Highlighting how decisions about research design should be influenced by the nature of the research question, the authors also acknowledge when other factors come into play, including financial and ethical considerations. The text helps researchers decide when to use a particular research design; teaches how to choose appropriate methods for sampling, recruiting, and  assigning treatments (for experiments); and explores the implications of these decisions. I like how the authors talk about debates in the literature and how they point out typical/common shortcomings of different approaches. Their frank language gives the book the feel of a trusted advisor providing honest advice.”

—Tracey LaPierre, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of Kansas

“This book is on an essential topic—the questions it tackles are incredibly important in the social sciences. It reads like a field guide to conducting good research. I would recommend it to advanced undergraduates who need a handy reference or to graduate students who want one resource for their basic design, sampling, and ethics questions. It is accessible and easy to read. The authors present the process of research as full of choices that are best tackled by an informed researcher—no choice is universally the best one. The book emphasizes the importance of careful thought and weighing of pros and cons prior to conducting research.”

—Theresa DiDonato, PhD, Department of Psychology, Loyola University Maryland

“The book is very well written and readable, a real plus! I really like the authors’ premise that the research question determines the choice of method, rather than vice versa.”

—Rosemary L. Hopcroft, PhD, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

“The use of questions as subheads is an effective pedagogical technique. Teaching students to turn a heading into a question and then reading the textbook section to find the answer to the question has a rich history as an instructional strategy.”

—Susan Kushner Benson, PhD, College of Education, University of Akron

“This has been an excellent text for my Advanced Research Methods course. Vogt et al. offer a well-rounded approach that addresses methods, sampling, and ethical issues for each research design. The book provides nice coverage that is relatively discipline neutral—appealing to the social sciences as well as business. Abundant references to key studies can be used as article reviews to further enhance each topic. The authors also incorporate statistical analysis tools that are appropriate for the designs, going beyond basic statistical procedures to explain a number of advanced procedures, as well.”

—Debbie L. Hahs-Vaughn, PhD, College of Education and Human Performance, University of Central Florida

Table of Contents

General Introduction: Design, Sampling, and Ethics

I. Research Questions and Designs

What Is the Role of Theory in Research Questions and Designs?

1. When to Use Survey Designs

When Are Surveys Likely to Be a Wise Design Choice?

When Should You Use Which Mode of Administering Your Survey?

What Design Should You Use to Study Change over Time?

What Question Formats Can You Use in a Survey Design?

Conclusion on Survey Designs: So Many Questions, So Little Time

2. When to Use Interview Designs

Comparing Interviews with Surveys

Conclusion on Interview Designs in General

Specific Interview Types, Approaches, and Procedures


3. When to Use Experimental Designs

What’s Wrong with Gold-Standard Thinking?

When Is an RCT a Good Option?

When Is an Experimental Design a Good Option for Your Research?

When Should You Use the Basic Types of Experimental Design?

General Conclusion on When to Use Experimental Designs

4. When to Use Naturalistic and Participant Observational Designs

Overview of Observational Designs

When Is Observation a Good Design Choice?

Further Distinguishing between Naturalistic and Participant Observational Designs

When Should You Use a Naturalistic Observational Design?

When Should You Use Participant Observational Designs?

Conclusion: Characteristics of All Observational Designs

5. When to Use Archival Designs: Literature Reviews and Secondary Analyses

What Kinds of Archival Data Are Available for Researchers?

When Should You Collect and Use Preexisting Data Rather Than Produce Your Own?

Types of Archival Research

Database Archives

Organizational Records

Textual Studies of Documents

New Media, Including Internet Sources


6. When to Use Combined Research Designs

Simple versus Multipart Research Questions

When to Combine Research Designs

Types and Qualities of Combined Designs

Logistical Considerations in Combined Research Designs

Conclusion and Summary

II. Sampling, Selection, and Recruitment

7. Sampling for Surveys

Probability Samples

Nonprobability Samples

When Should You Try to Improve Response Rates?

How Big Should Your Sample Be?


8. Identifying and Recruiting People for Interviews

How Interview Strategies Are Shaped by Research Questions

Making Basic Decisions about Interview Sampling

Conclusions on Selecting People to Interview

9. Sampling, Recruiting, and Assigning Participantsin Experiments

Randomized Controlled Trials

Alternatives to RCTs

Controlling for Covariates

Conclusion: Sampling, Recruiting, and Assigning Cases in Experiments

10. Searching and Sampling for Observations

Overview of Searching and Sampling Concerns in Observational Research

Appropriateness and Relevance of the Sample

Accessing Observation Sites

Decisions Influenced by Resources and Other Practical Considerations

Four Basic Sampling Decisions

Sampling and the Five Types of Research Questions

Conclusion and Summary

11. Sampling from Archival Sources

When Do You Search and When Do You Sample?

Sampling Research Literature to Build Upon and Synthesize It

Database Archives

Organizational Records

Textual Studies of Documents

New Media, Including Various Internet Sources


12. Sampling and Recruiting for Combined Research Designs

When Should You Use Probability Samples in Your Combined Design Study?

When Should You Use Purposive Samples in Your Combined Design Study?

When Should You Use Both Probability and Purposive Samples in Your Study?

Conclusion and Summary

III. Research Ethics: The Responsible Conduct of Research

Responsibilities toward the Persons Being Studied

Responsibilities toward Other Researchers

Responsibilities toward the Broader Society/Community

13. Ethics in Survey Research

Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Joining the Research Project

Harm: Preventing Injury to Respondents

Privacy: Ensuring Respondents’ Anonymity and/or Confidentiality


14. Ethics in Interview Research

Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Agreeing to Be Interviewed

Harm: Preventing Injury to Interviewees during the Interview

Privacy: Ensuring Interviewees’ Confidentiality


15. Ethics in Experimental Research

Consent: Informed Participants Willingly Joining the Research Project

Harm: Preventing Injury to Experimental Participants

Privacy: Ensuring Participants’ Anonymity and/or Confidentiality


16. Ethics in Observational Research

Seeking and Acquiring Informed Consent to Observe

Avoiding and Minimizing Harm to Participants While Conducting the Study

Ensuring Participant Privacy


17. Ethical Issues in Archival Research

Ethical Practice in Reviews of the Research Literature

Ethical Practices in Employing Database Archives

Ethical Obligations When Using Institutional Records

Ethical Issues When Using Documents, Including Public Documents

Ethical Issues When Using Blogs and Other Sources Published On-line

When Might the Honest, Correct Reporting of Archival Research Cause Harm?


18. Ethical Considerations in Combined Research Designs




Conclusion: Culmination of Design, Sampling, and Ethics in Valid Data Coding

When to Use Qualities or Quantities, Names or Numbers, Categories or Continua?

What Methods to Use to Code Concepts with Reliability and Validity

What Methods to Use to Improve Reliability

What Methods to Use to Enhance Validity

What to Use to Code Concepts Validly

Coding Decisions Shape Analytic Options


About the Authors

W. Paul Vogt, PhD, until his death in 2016, was Emeritus Professor of Research Methods and Evaluation at Illinois State University, where he received both teaching and research awards. Dr. Vogt’s areas of specialization included research design and data analysis, with particular emphasis on combining qualitative, quantitative, and graphic approaches. His books include Selecting the Right Analyses for Your Data and When to Use What Research Design.

Dianne C. Gardner, PhD, is Associate Professor of Educational Administration at Illinois State University. Dr. Gardner’s research interests include assessment, organizational development, program evaluation, P20 systems, and qualitative research methodology.

Lynne M. Haeffele, PhD, is Senior Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. Dr. Haeffele’s research interests include combining research designs, applying research findings to policy and practice, program evaluation, and the topical areas of college readiness, organizational performance, and school–university partnerships.


Researchers, instructors, and graduate students in a range of disciplines, including psychology, education, social work, sociology, health, and management; administrators and managers who need to make data-driven decisions.

Course Use

Will serve as a supplemental text in graduate-level courses in research design, research methods, and preparing the thesis/dissertation.